Review by C.J. Bunce

As Navin Johnson said, “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!”

OK, not a phone book, but something much better.  Pretty much on schedule, Frank Cho’s new hardcover Liberty Meadows: The Collected Sundays Book One has been released and it is a great collection of early Frank Cho art and humor.  You can find it at comic book stores, but I have not seen it released elsewhere yet.  As you might know from reading past reviews at borg.com, the world can always use more Frank Cho art.  What you might not know is how brilliantly funny Cho is at writing quick-witted, humorous shorts.

His very best humor can be found in University², and now in this compilation that collects Cho’s college newspaper strips while he was in nursing school.  Some of the best laugh out loud humor around is in that book.

So how is this new compilation?  It’s the kind of humor you used to get from the Sunday funnies.  So it has the feel of a toned down version of University².  After all, these appeared alongside Cathy and Peanuts and Family Circus (in one strip a character practically reaches across the newsprint to take on Cathy Guisewite’s character Cathy from the comic strip of the same name).

It’s definitely cute, slightly irreverent, and just plain good humor that was perfected and refined in the later Liberty Meadows comic book series, where Cho’s writing, and art, really shined.  You’ll find Brandy and Frank and the animal crew here as well as stories you might compare to early Charles Schultz strips.  And interspersed are pieces of true fine art–days when Frank got new pens he would draw Brandy as a modern Pre-Raphaelite lounging on a fainting couch or resisting the affections of Frank’s own representation–a funny monkey.

As format is concerned this bright and shiny hardcover edition is big and pretty.  The interior design has one negative: The pages open with a giant “Strip 001”, etc. legend to the left of each two-page spread, taking up a strangely large amount of space.  As a reader you wonder whether this could have been avoided with a slightly larger but thinner paged-volume.

The interior design quirk aside, the content is what you’d expect from Cho and will stand nicely along with your Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts hardcovers on your bookshelf.  Look for an excellent forward by Cho’s college friend, Mike McSwiggin, too.

Liberty Meadows: The Collected Sundays Book One is available in bookstores with a publication price of $24.99, (pretty cheap considering DC’s trade paperbacks sell at that price), and a discounted version is available online (and still at the discounted pre-order price as of June 27, 2012).

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